High Seas Research

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What happens to salmon in the open ocean significantly affects their overall survival and returns. It makes sense as salmon spend the majority of their lifecycle there. However - until now - this period of their migratory journey has remained a relative mystery as open ocean research is expensive and challenging. The Pacific Salmon Foundation’s Gulf of Alaska Expeditions are an international partnership with Pacific Rim countries: Unites States, Russia, Japan and the Republic of Korea. Our findings there will help us better understand the consequences of future environmental conditions and extreme climate events, to ultimately improve forecasting and salmon management in a rapidly changing environment.

Salmon in the Gulf of Alaska 

About a third of all Pacific salmon are thought to spend their winters in the Gulf of Alaska. Factors there can impact salmon from around the Pacific Rim. The Expeditions were organized by PSF Science Advisor, Dr. Brian Riddell and Dr. Richard Beamish, as a banner initiative of the International Year of the Salmon. 

Objectives and Preliminary Findings: 2020 and 2021

It is believed that fish that grow faster, survive better and the ‘readiness’ of juvenile salmon to survive winters in the Gulf of Alaska may be determined during the first months at sea. The 2020 voyage tested this hypothesis.  Meet the team and read about findings from the last voyage here.

The next voyages launch in winter of 2022 with scientists from Canada, Japan, the Republic of Korea, the Russian Federation, and the United States. Organized through the North Pacific Anadromous Fish Commission (NPAFC), this effort will be the first cross-Pacific study in more than 50 years and will involve up to four vessels fishing simultaneously to study the distribution and health of Pacific salmon. In collaboration with NPAFC, PSF is also supporting an additional vessel to expand research, looking at factors such as potential competitors and predators for salmon in the open ocean.  

These studies will link to our findings from the Bottlenecks to Survival project as to give us a complete picture of what’s impacting salmon survival. 


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